Four years before makeup mogul Kylie Jenner took over the title, Forbes named Elizabeth Holmes the youngest female self-made billionaire ever. Her company, Theranos, was meant to change the way people draw blood — with a simple finger prick instead of large venous draws. The company was valued at $9 billion at its height, but Holmes would soon become a household name for a completely different reason.
Just a year after receiving the Forbes honor, the whistle was blown. Holmes had misled her investors, and the technology behind Theranos could not work. In 2019, HBO's The Inventor shed new light on who Holmes is and how she defrauded the public.
Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of four fraud-related charges on Jan. 3, 2022.
Holmes' trial was initially supposed to be in 2020, but due to her lawyers' diligence and the COVID-19 pandemic, her trial was pushed all the way to Aug. 31, 2021. By the end of the trial, which lasted more than four months, she was found guilty on four counts of investor fraud. The jury was deadlocked on three other investor fraud counts and found her innocent on four counts of patient fraud.
Regardless, the four counts she was guilty of could each come with a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Originally, Holmes was supposed to be tried along with Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, her No. 2 in command. However, their cases were "severed ahead of her trial," according to The Dropout podcast. This means that while they can have different convictions and sentences, their trials may affect each other in unique ways.
"It's not typical for a case to be sentenced eight months out, but this is not a typical case in many senses," Amanda Kramer, a former federal prosecutor, explained to NPR. "Some facts established in Balwani's trial might prove to be relevant in Holmes' sentencing."
In addition, law professor Ellen Kreitzberg explained on The Dropout how Holmes could use this to her advantage: "Elizabeth Holmes and her lawyers may talk to the government now about cooperating with them in the trial of Sunny Balwani. Under the federal guidelines, cooperation by a defendant is viewed very favorably and allows what's called 'downward departures,' [which] allows the judge to reduce the sentence that might otherwise be required under the guidelines."
Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to over 11 years in prison.
On Friday Nov. 18, 2022, Holmes was sentenced to 11.25 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. NBC News reporter Scott Budman live tweeted the sentencing, which began at 10 a.m. PST and was presided over by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila. Holmes arrived at 9:30 a.m. and was visibly pregnant with her second child. (Her first child was born in July 2021, just one month before her trial began.)
According to Budman, the courtroom was packed and Holmes looked "emotionless." The sentencing started with both sides seemingly beginning to litigate again, presumably in an effort to sway Judge Davila one way or the other. At around 12:45 p.m., Judge Davila said he would "set a date to determine what Elizabeth Holmes owes [in investor losses], but that will be a later date," per Scott Budman.
At this point, Alex Shultz, father of Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz, provided a victim impact statement. While looking at Holmes, he referenced the fact that she hired a private investigator to follow Tyler.
"My son slept with a knife, because he was afraid of being killed," Alex said. He went on to mention being harassed by Theranos lawyers, which made his family feel deeply unsafe. He concluded, saying, "My wife and I are finally happy that this is coming to an end."
When Holmes got up to speak, she was crying. She began by apologizing to patients and investors: "I regret my failings with every cell of my body," she claimed. Inexplicably, Holmes read a poem then finished by saying, "Thank you." After the sentence was read, Holmes "tearfully hug[ged] her family."
Her surrender date is scheduled for April 27, 2023.